If you’ve seen the news that the Nationals have acquired outfielder Scott Hairston from the Cubs and find yourself unimpressed by Hairston’s .172/.232/.434 slash line this season, well, you’re probably not alone.
As a team, Nats pinch-hitters are batting .174/.208/.313 this season, so why do they need another guy who is hitting well below the Mendoza line and isn’t reaching base at a solid clip?
Well, if you fall into that line of thinking, I’ve got two stats for you.
* As a team, the Nats are hitting .218/.283/.343 off left-handed pitching this season. That gives them the lowest batting average and on-base percentage in the league against southpaws and the second-lowest slugging percentage in the majors off lefties.
Tyler Moore, the Nats’ top power-hitting right-handed bat off the bench, is batting .125/.173/.229 against lefties this season.
As I pointed out last night, Hairston has killed left-handed pitching over his career, posting a slash line of .268/.318/.818. This season, those numbers are down a good bit (.179/.239/.500), but he does have eight homers in 78 at-bats against lefties.
* Hairston’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) this season is .129, by far the lowest number of any player with more than 100 at-bats. What’s that indicate? Well, it indicates that Hairston has gotten a bit unlucky this season, and could be poised for a turnaround.
Hairston’s strikeout rate falls in line with his career averages, and his walk rate is actually up from last season. None of this, of course, guarantees anything, but it does seem to work in Hairston’s favor.
The Hairston trade also came at a great time for the Nats, who will spend the next four days in Philadelphia taking on their division rival. The 33-year-old Hairston has terrorized the Phillies over his career, hitting .307/.348/.677 with 12 homers and 25 RBIs in 45 games against the Phils.
Oh, yeah, and the Phillies will start three left-handers the next three nights in John Lannan, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.
Moore certainly has potential to be a solid major leaguer, but he hasn’t performed well this season. The Nats felt they needed to upgrade their bench and give themselves more right-handed pop, and they get a guy in Hairston who is not only under contract this season, but next season, as well.
That will likely push Moore out of a spot for the time being, and it makes you wonder what the future holds for him.
Speaking of the Phillies and left-handed pitching, Bryce Harper - who is 4-for-6 with four RBIs and two walks since manager Davey Johnson threatened to take him out of the lineup - was asked following yesterday’s game whether he’s starting to find a groove again after missing over a month while on the DL.
“I’ll tell you in three days after I face Lannan, Hamels and Lee,” Harper said. “That’s gonna be rough. Just trying to have good ABs and see a lot of pitches and try to put the ball in play.”
Johnson says he’s seen a better approach from Harper the last couple days, and he feels some of that might be due to Harper just getting back to playing his style of ball and not listening to those on the outside who are trying to influence the way he plays.
“He’s an intelligent guy. But he’s also very sensitive,” Johnson said. “Here he ran on the scene, he’s got commercials, he’s got a lot of people in his ear too much. I think he’s handled it pretty good. Through a little bit of that down period, I think he was getting a whole lot of conversation from a whole lot of people about not running into walls, going headfirst slide, take care of your career, blah, blah, blah. He only wants to hear, ‘Just let me play. I’m going to play my way. I’m going to play hard.’ Sometimes all the attention, everybody is piling on and trying to help, but he just wants to go play baseball. That’s his focus.
“I think through that whole period a lot of people were telling him that he had to change his style and all this stuff. Prolong his career. He don’t want to hear that. He just wants to play baseball. His style of play is great. In my conversation with him I said, ‘Have I ever told you change anything? Have I ever told you not to run into walls? You’re going to run into walls. It’s just who you are. You’re going to slide head first.’ He just needs to not listen to all this extraneous talk.”
Update: The Nats have sent right-hander Ivan Pineyro and a player to be named to the Cubs for Hairston and a player to be named.
Pineyro, who was recently promoted from low Single-A Hagerstown to high Single-A Potomac, is 6-3 with a 3.24 ERA in 15 starts this season. He’s recorded 72 strikeouts and walked 22 in 77 2/3 innings and has a 3.86 ERA in his two starts since getting bumped up to Potomac.
The 21-year-old Pineyro is a native of the Dominican Republic.